WOOD RIVER JCT. — Three technical fouls, an ejection and a buzzer beater made for a crazy atmosphere, especially for a mid-December game, on Friday night.
The Chariho High and Cranston West boys basketball teams seemed headed for overtime, but Chariho senior Ryan Allen’s buzzer-beating putback gave the Chargers a 54-52 victory in their Division II opener.
“It wasn’t drawn up for me; it was drawn up for Levi [King], and I was just there in case he missed it,” Allen said of the final play. “He happened to miss it and I just put it in.”
The Chargers led by four with 30 seconds left, thanks to back-to-back steals and four straight points from Lucas Santos. Cranston West had the ball with about 35 seconds remaining, but threw an errant pass near midcourt. Falcons junior guard Cameron Alves saved a backcourt violation, but threw the ball high in the air and Santos came away with it. He brought the ball down the court and hit a short jumper off the glass to give the Chargers a 50-48 lead.
On the ensuing Falcons possession, Santos came up with another steal, was fouled and hit both free throws with 18.5 seconds on the clock. Santos, who paced Chariho with 13 points, and Alves exchanged words as Chariho guard Luke Fusaro tried to restrain his teammate, but Santos was ejected.
“We just didn’t do a good job keeping our composure, and it’s disappointing,” Chariho coach Corey Downey said. “I know we won, but there are a lot of things we didn’t do well. We just did a lot of not-smart things for a team that has a lot of seniors and juniors.”
Cranston West guard Jared Olson, who led all scorers with 20 points, hit the two free throws stemming from the ejection, and then Fusaro fouled Olson on his way to the basket. Olson hit two more foul shots to tie the game with 10.6 seconds left.
“Coach was talking to us and he said, ‘Listen, just play basketball. Don’t get in your head. Play to win,’” Allen said.
In the closing seconds, King drove baseline but his shot was too strong and ended up in the hands of Allen on the other side of the hoop.
“We do it at practice all the time, the tip drill, where we throw it off the back of the glass and try to get it in,” Allen said. “That’s what I was thinking. ‘In case he does miss it, jump up there and just hit it in.’”
Fusaro finished with 12 points, eight coming in the second half, eight rebounds and five assists before fouling out.
“He really persevered through some adversity in the beginning of the first half, then he came back and did a really nice job attacking the basket,” Downey said. “Especially those first three or four baskets at the beginning of the second half, I thought they were really important. He was attacking and really aggressive, and his defensive tenacity was important, too.”
The Chargers led 30-26 at halftime, and opened the second half with a 9-0 run while holding the Falcons scoreless for the first 5:23.
“I thought our defense was very good the second half, end of the first half,” Downey said. “Then we just started going 1-on-1 offensively and that slowed us down and allowed them to push the ball more in transition. We weren’t in the right spots defensively and that’s how they got back in it.”
Fortunately for the Chargers, Ryan was in the right spot at the end.
“We always talk about trying to continue the play, and they did that tonight with that play by Ryan at the end,” Downey said. “A lot of things to work on … but a win’s a win.”